February 26, 2009
A Guide to PD Books to Put on the Net
Get the PDF: the TXT is not formatted so it's difficult to tell what divisions should be.
As a pure catalog, this is good, but not in any way thrilling--catlogs aren't. Books are sorted by the era they cover, and within a year by author, though Baker does try and group any particular author in an area by sorting books in close years by year under the author.
Many of the books are given short synopses, mainly to tell you what historical events or persons are included. Many have nothing but the years covered: we suspect much of this comes from publisher's catalogs. No one could read this many thousand novels! Very usefully, juvenile fiction is clearly marked [juvenile]. One instantly sees how it predominates, especially in early eras.
The uses of a catalog this old are to find books you never knew existed for --
a) Completing a collection on an era;
b) Completing your guide to histfi into the 21st C while saving you a hundred years of titles-hunting;
c) Hunting them down in hardcopy to see them preserved online in archives like this.
There's always a need for more PD books, once places like this and Project Gutenberg set up. The great classics that are PD having been covered. What do we do with the volunteers and systems already set up? Why, work our way down into long-lost pop fiction.
The only other uses I can think of are to hunt down old authors' complete works, to find out what a book covers without reading it (librarians especially), or to figure out what books were available by a particular year. It's a handy catalog, probably very thorough, but it's not for entertainment.